- Written by Dan
Water, water everywhere...but is there a drop to drink?
Drinkable water is something we are fortunate enough to take for granted in Canada, but sometimes when we travel we get a hint of just how fortunate we are
On September 28th, 2015, NASA announced the discovery of water on Mars. The rocket scientists weren't sure whether it had originated underground, was caused by melting ice or was the result of surface molecules absorbing water in the atmosphere, but after years of wondering and investigating, they did confirm that there is indeed water in liquid form on the Red Planet.
It's unlikely that anyone will be setting up a bottling plant on Mars and selling Martian Mineral water on earth anytime soon given that the water is far more salty than even that of the Dead Sea, but it does move us a step closer to sending humans to Mars.
Although the presence of water wasn't a prerequisite for dispatching astronauts there in the first place, it does make the prospect of establishing Martian bases more palatable than the briny liquid itself. And, with much of the necessary technology already at hand, someone reading this might one day actually live to see the first human Martian!
Whether an astronaut or a hiker, the presence of potable water is rather important to all voyagers
Here on Earth, explorers and adventurers have ventured to every corner of our planet and regardless of whether they're on well-equipped government-funded expeditions or are merely weekend backpackers, water is always top of the list of necessities.
Unless you're in some of the driest spots on our planet, you should usually be able to find some water, although—as with the water on Mars—just how drinkable it will be is another question.
The United Nations state that 783 million people in the world today do not have access to clean drinking water, so it's not surprising that many travellers are advised not to drink the water during their wanderings.
Sometimes the water's just 'different' and delicate first world tummies are advised that while it may be good enough to rinse your toothbrush with, it's not good enough to actually drink. While elsewhere we're advised to simply avoid it at all costs when untreated and even told to shower with our mouths diligently sealed shut.
Unless faced with the choice between consuming unclean water or suffering organ-failure from dehydration, it's really never worth taking a chance with untreated drinking water.The best you can hope for is usually a few days of discomfort. The worst is death.
Although if there is water, you can usually do something to make it potable regardless of whether you're swinging in a hammock in the jungle or staying in a luxury hotel
Most outdoor stores carry a number of items that can help you purify water on your travels. Ranging from purification tablets and drops that can be placed in water bottles or glasses, to filters and ultraviolet light purifiers, there's a treatment for every budget, every surrounding and most water-borne ailments.
Should you have ventured away without bringing anything with you however, all is not lost as simply boiling water will rid it of most bacteria, protozoa and viruses.
It is recommended that water be boiled for a minimum of five minutes, longer at higher altitudes. If you are planning to cook with that water, be sure to remember to pre-boil before adding food. If you place the food in the untreated water and bring both to a boil together, you may well contaminate your food. Once boiled, either leave the treated water in the container used for heating or transfer it to a new clean container. Do not transfer it to a dirty container or all your hard work will have been for naught!
If boiling doesn't seem sufficient to you and there's no outfitters nearby, simple household bleach will do the trick.
Now, while the idea of drinking bleach may sound horrific, the quantity necessary to kill most germs is so small that it's highly unlikely that you will even notice that it's there. A few drops of plain household liquid bleach stirred in and left to sit for 30 minutes usually does the trick. The recommended ratio of bleach to water is around 15 drops per gallon. Just make sure that you use enough to kill the germs but not so much as to leave your insides pearly white!
Simon Vaughan is a Senior Writer/Editor & Special Travel Advisor for Outpost. Alongside special reports and travel features you can find Simon’s voice in his super-mega-funny Local Knowledge travel stories in Outpost Magazine every issue. Don't miss each of Simon's articles over at Simon Says Travel.